Press reports claiming that enzymes used in industrial breadmaking were "not fit for vegetarians" have been refuted as "confused" and "unfounded" by the industry.
The stories, prompted by the Real Bread Campaign, were based on the accusation that enzymes used to make bread may be derived from animal sources, such as pig gut, as part of its campaign for clear labelling of processing aids on bread.
Brands including Warburtons, Hovis, Kingsmill, Allinson, Burgen and Sunblest, as well as supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Co-op, have since declared that they do not use non-vegetarian ingredients/processing aids in their breads.
Chris Morrant, chair of the technical committee of the Asso-ciation of Baking Ingredient Manufacturers, said enzymes used in the UK baking industry were produced by fermentation technology and had no animal origin. "No ABIM member uses enzymes derived from animal sources," he said.
While a few enzymes derived from animal sources are used in UK manufacturing of non-cereal foods, none of these - proteases (breakdown proteins), lipases and phospholipases (break down fats) - are used by industrial bakers, it is claimed. "The baking industry does not use enzymes from these sources, as it is well aware of the concerns of vegetarians," said Stan Cauvain of consultancy firm BakeTran.
The Federation of Bakers stated that all wrapped bread produced in the UK was clearly labelled if products were not suitable for vegetarians and strictly adhered to EU legislation.
Meanwhile, the Vegetarian Society moved to quell consumers’ fears. A spokes-person said: "We asked every manufacturer we contacted if they used any non-vegetarian ingredients or processing aids, and every one of them assured us they did not."
Real Bread Campaign founder Andrew Whitley said: "The key question is trust. A particular non-vegetarian enzyme or enzyme source may not be used in much bread, or any bread made today. But how would we be sure? We have no way of knowing what is going into our food."